Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

16 investigative teams, 800 priority warrants: Albuquerque Police Department’s plan to clear its warrant backlog

Deputy Chief Cecily Barker holds up a photo of a man suspected of shooting at police officers who is one of many priority pending warrants police are hoping to clear. The department has requested millions from state lawmakers to address a backlog of thousands of pending warrants. (Roberto E. Rosales/)

City officials Monday unveiled more detailed plans for how they will use the millions of dollars they are requesting from the state Legislature to address a massive backlog of pending felony warrants in Bernalillo County.

There are currently thousands of people who are wanted on around 5,000 pending felony warrants in the Albuquerque area, and police officials said some people wanted in connection with those warrants are responsible for large numbers of crimes in the city.

Cecily Barker, the deputy chief of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Investigative Bureau, said police officials combed through the 5,000 felony warrants and identified 800 that will be the department’s priority. The effort will be led by 16 investigative teams spread throughout the department, including proactive response teams assigned to each area command, automobile theft detectives, gun-violence teams and other groups.

In addition to their regular duties, Barker said those groups will be expected to arrest one person from the list of 800 priority warrants per week. If investigators can stay on schedule, it should take about a year to clear the backlog, she said.

Addressing the backlog is one aspect of the mayor’s Metro Crime Initiative, which is an effort to bring together leaders from throughout the criminal justice system to come up with ideas for addressing crime.

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“There are many things we can do long-term to prevent this backlog from ever happening. We acknowledge that,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said at a news conference. “The Metro Crime Initiative is about literally what can you do today, in the short term, to bring down crime. And this is by far the No. 1 thing we can do today.”

Earlier this month, Albuquerque announced that it would be requesting $20 million from the state legislature to address the warrant backlog in Bernalillo County and throughout the rest of the state.

The money will be used to pay officers’ overtime — because arresting for the priority warrants is in addition to the investigative teams’ other responsibilities — and “cross-jurisdiction warrant operations.”

New Mexico lawmakers are currently in a 60-day session, and crime has arisen as an issue for lawmakers.

“We know that while we can’t prevent a homicide, the best thing we can do is to get those likely to commit them off the street,” Keller said.

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